Thailand Conference

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An international conference on "The Future of Asia's Past" was held from January 11 to 14, 1995, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Organized by the Asia Society, the Siam Society, and the Getty Conservation Institute, the conference was attended by nearly 350 people from 28 countries who met to discuss the urgent need to shape effective policies for the preservation of Asia's architectural heritage in the context of the region's rapid economic development. An important goal of the gathering was to bring together scholars, government policymakers, private developers, and tourism officials to exchange ideas and to begin creating a framework for more coordinated preservation efforts.

In her remarks to the conference, Vishakha N. Desai, Vice-President for Program Coordination at the Asia Society, observed that Asia's dynamism derives from "a powerful, enduring impact of values, religions, and aesthetic systems that have thousands of years of history." She asked those gathered to consider two important questions: "Why must we care? And can we make the collective commitment to addressing the challenge of the future of Asia's past before it is too late?"

The 48 speakers at the conference addressed a variety of subjects, including preservation policy in Asia, site management, vernacular architecture and the colonial legacy, public and private partnerships, threats to architectural sites, and the endangered heritage program of the World Monuments Fund.

A publication containing the conference's proceedings is expected to be available later this year.

Speaking at the closing session of the conference on "The Future of Asia's Past," GCI Director Miguel Angel Corzo remarked upon the uniqueness of the cultural heritage and on its nonrenewable character:

"We cannot plant another monument when an old one dies. The world is producing new forms of the cultural heritage that reflect our present values, but it is only by preserving the old forms that we are able to create a sense of identity with our cultures and civilizations, that we establish the roots of our spiritual development, and that we can firmly plant new forms in the ground to grow and flourish and bear fruit.

These are difficult times for everyone: rapid population growth, increasing urbanization, inflation, and pollution are what make the headlines today. But this is also a time for commitment. A commitment to our social well-being, a commitment to our enduring values, a commitment to protecting our past. Halfway measures or timid solutions will not succeed in the present world. We need to be bold and imaginative. We need to plan and we need to act...

We, in this generation, have benefited from being able to look at our past and wonder, to look at our past and learn, to look at our past and dream. . . . Let us ensure that these great privileges of the cultural heritage remain for future generations, for our children and our children's children, so that they also may revel in the richness of the past."

 

Picture L.A. Exhibition

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The GCI-organized exhibition Picture L.A.: Landmarks of a New Generation had its opening December 6, 1994, at Los Angeles City Hall's Bridge Gallery. The exhibition included the photographs and commentary of eight young people, aged 10 to 18, who were asked by the Institute to photograph what they considered landmarks of their own human and physical environments, as well as designated historic sites. The resulting collection of images, dramatic in content and powerful in feeling, challenged traditional ideas about the nature of landmarks.

At the opening, attended by nearly 600 people, each of the young photographers was presented with prints of his or her photographs, a copy of the exhibition catalogue, and a video about the project. They were also each given a certificate of commendation from the Office of the Mayor. Among those in attendance at the opening were Mayor Richard Riordan, Deputy Mayor Sofia Garcia Conde Zuckerman, and Getty Trust Board Chairman Robert Erburu.

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Picture L.A. received extensive coverage from the local print media and television. A story on the project was also run nationally by the Cable News Network (CNN). The exhibition has now moved to the Los Angeles Central Library, where it will remain through May 1995 before traveling to the Chicago area.

On the evening of February 1, the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica hosted a special event on the Picture L.A. project. Images from the exhibition were shown, and the photographers spoke and signed copies of the exhibition catalogue.

The catalogue for Picture L.A. recently received a design and production award from the Rounce & Coffin Club—an organization with an interest in fine printing and the art of the book, which since 1938 has sponsored an annual exhibition of its award winners.

 

Collaboration and Conservation in Belize

In February 1995 the Department of Archaeology of the government of Belize and the Getty Conservation Institute coorganized a three-day workshop, "Planning for the Future: Site Conservation and Management." Focusing on the ancient Maya site of Xunantunich—where the GCI has been collaborating with archaeologists and government authorities to address the problems of conserving archaeological sites in humid tropical zones—the workshop marked a new approach to the planning and management of Belize's archaeological sites.

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The 35 participants in the workshop included representatives of various Belize government departments, tourism and guide organizations, residents of the neighboring village of San Jose Succotz, and the UCLA archaeology team currently excavating at Xunantunich. For the first time in Belize, individuals with a broad spectrum of interests met to collaborate and cooperate in the development of a Conservation and Management Plan for a site. This was the first time as well that the country's Department of Archaeology invited public participation in the formulation of policy.

By the end of the workshop, a spirit of collaboration was established and the framework for the Conservation and Management Plan outlined. Participants offered recommendations in a number of areas, including site development and administration, local community involvement, finance and education, and protection of the natural environment. As a result of the workshop, the Department of Archaeology has initiated a plan of action for Xunantunich and gained a new network of support for the site's future care.

Because of the success of the Belize program, the GCI is evaluating the potential for applying this participatory planning model to other cultural sites.